Mutual Broadcasting – 12:30-1:30 pm – May 8, 1945 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
After years of fighting, weeks of speculation, days of rumors and false reports, the War in Europe finally came to an official end on May 8, 1945. Half of World War 2 was over. But there was the other half to think about – the Pacific half. And while there was much celebration going on, and cause for celebration, there were still three more months of war to deal with.
Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the western world, especially in the UK and North America. More than one million people celebrated in the streets throughout the UK to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by their daughters and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds. Churchill went from the palace to Whitehall where he addressed another large crowd:
“God bless you all. This is your victory. In our long history, we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best.”
At this point he asked Ernest Bevin to come forward and share the applause. Bevin said: “No, Winston, this is your day”, and proceeded to conduct the people in the singing of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. Later, Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations.
In the United States, the event coincided with President Harry Truman’s 61st birthday. He dedicated the victory to the memory of his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died of a cerebral hemorrhage less than a month earlier, on 12 April. Flags remained at half-staff for the remainder of the 30-day mourning period. Truman said of dedicating the victory to Roosevelt’s memory and keeping the flags at half-staff that his only wish was “that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day”. Later that day, Truman said that the victory made it his most enjoyable birthday. Great celebrations took place in many American cities, especially in New York’s Times Square.
Tempering the jubilation somewhat, both Churchill and Truman pointed out that the war against Japan had not yet been won. In his radio broadcast at 15:00 on 8 May, Churchill told the British people that: “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing (as Japan) remains unsubdued”. In America, Truman broadcast at 09:00 and said it was “a victory only half won”.
As with all radio at the time, regular programs were pre-empted and special VE Day programs were put in their place, while America and Europe tuned in and celebrated and the streets filled.
Here is one sample of a typical hour for that May 8th, via The Mutual Broadcasting System. From 12:30 to 1:30 in the afternoon, the broadcast exactly as it happened from somber to giddy, just as the day went.